Recently, the Lands Council and a local high school group planted ponderosa pines within a culturally and ecologically sensitive area at Drumheller Springs. Many indigenous food plants were disturbed during the planting and many others threatened over the long term. I wrote about the incident here.
I expressed my concern to my friend Kirsten Angell, who is a board member at Lands Council. She arranged a meeting with Kat Hall, also of Lands Council, and Angel Spell, urban forester for the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department. The four of us met at Drumheller Springs, along with my son Dakota.
We started at the western edge of the park and walked toward the spring, stopping along the way to discuss the native plants - the bitterroots, brown camas, wild onions, arrowleaf balsamroot, wild carrots, and others. We talked about the plants from a scientific perspective, but we also addressed the cultural aspect of each one - the history, the language, and even the spirituality. Most importantly, I spoke of my deep love for this land and for all the plants growing here.
Prior to our meeting, I prepared a small sample of foods harvested from Drumheller Springs. I wanted my friends to experience Drumheller through the foods, and not just through words. After hearing all the stories, we sat together on the ground and enjoyed a small meal.
After sharing a beautiful cultural experience, we continued walking toward the new tree plantings. The contrast in mood was palpable. As we walked together, I noticed them stepping more carefully and seeing the park through different eyes. Then I think they understood.
At the conclusion of our meeting, I asked them to 1) remove the trees, and 2) get the city to create a special designation to prevent future plantings.
In the short term, I'm happy to report that Kat from Lands Council made a commitment to remove the trees to another location. For the long term question of creating some kind of legal designation, Angel agreed to address the issue with the staff at the Parks and Recreation Department. She acknowledged that we might encounter some difficulties, but she expressed an openness to helping.
I will post updates as they become available.